Snowflake’s Frank Slootman doesn’t start companies. But no CEO has a better track record of turning the ideas of others into jackpots. Now the 3x IPO veteran is exclusively sharing his playbook.
Slootman, who took over Snowflake in April 2019, has been ruthlessly efficient. Just six months in, he had lined up his anchor investors, including Dragoneer Investments and Marc Benioff’s Salesforce. Around the same time, he began meeting with research analysts who would wind up setting bullish prices for the IPO. And when Slootman and his team virtually rang the bell of the New York Stock Exchange, a process that looked as awkward as it sounds, raising some $3.4 billion in the process, Salesforce and others were there to support the floor. “These are people we knew from previous rodeos,” Slootman says with a shrug.
Snowflake, valued at $4 billion when Slootman took over, more than doubled that first day and is up significantly since. It currently boasts a market capitalization of $81 billion on trailing sales of roughly $580 million. His personal net worth, an estimated $2.2 billion, is an extraordinary figure for someone who has never been part of a company in its earliest days.
Slootman likes to say that he doesn’t have a formula, even after having pulled off similar magic at both Data Domain and ServiceNow. Talk to him at length, though, and watch the patterns, and you can see that’s not true. The former sailor runs pre-IPO companies like a tightly rigged high-performance watercraft, a captain with extreme confidence who will throw overboard anyone who shows the mildest mutinous inclination.
“When I was a younger man, I was more tolerant; I always thought I could coach people to a place where they would be great,” Slootman says. “And 99 times out of 100, you’re wrong on that, which is the reason I [now] pull triggers much faster. I still don’t think I’ve ever taken anybody out of a job too soon. It’s [always] been too late.
“I exercise executive prerogative,” he adds. “I don’t have to justify it, I don’t have to convince you. I just have to know that this is what I want to do. And the reason is, CEOs are only there for one reason, and that is they need to win. When you win, nobody can hurt you. And when you lose, nobody can help you.”
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